B. Muralidhar Reddy

Anton Balasingham only regretted incident, spokesman tellsThe Hindu

COLOMBO: The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam on Wednesday denied that it had owned responsibility for the Rajiv Gandhi assassination.

Daya Master, LTTE spokesman contested the interpretation of Anton Balasingham's NDTV interview by Sri Lankan defence spokesman Keheliya Rambukwella. Mr. Rambukwella told a news conference here earlier in the day here that the `apology' tendered by the LTTE was interesting as the Tigers till yesterday had consistently denied their involvement in the assassination of the former Prime Minister.

"The LTTE has not owned responsibility for the killing. Mr. Balasingham has only regretted the incident", Daya Master of the Tigers Secretariat told The Hindu over phone from Kilinochchi.

[Anton Balasingham, LTTE's chief negotiator and ideologue, told NDTV on Tuesday: "As far as that event [Rajiv assassination] is concerned, I would say it is a great tragedy, a monumental historical tragedy for which we deeply regret and we call upon the Government of India and the people of India to be magnanimous to put the past behind and to approach the ethnic question in a different perspective."]

On the request of the LTTE for greater Indian involvement in the island's conflict, Mr. Rambukwella said India was involved as an observer in the first round of the Geneva talks and there have been `strong requests' from Colombo to New Delhi for a more active role. He said the Government of Sri Lanka wanted to widen the scope of international monitors and observers.

Asked if the LTTE was sending any signal to India through the interview, he said: "We are taking the signals seriously but the contents and assurances are dubious." He said when the subject of Rajiv assassination figured before the 2002 ceasefire agreement, the LTTE was visibly annoyed and walked out of the negotiation room.

A political observer is of the view that Mr. Balasingham's interview is a reflection of the desperation of the Tigers, particularly after the European Union (EU) ban and their growing international isolation.

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